Craft means skill to me. Craft means dedication to a material – learning how it works and how far you can push it. It’s about making something very well, which can be cherished and appreciated.
For glassblower and jeweller Catriona MacKenzie, craft means skill. It also means dedication and hard work. As one of the 39 makers selected for this year’s Crafts Council’s Hothouse programme, Cat is realistic about how much research, knowledge and determination it takes to turn your craft into a business, but says that “when things go right, it’s the best feeling in the world”. We caught up with Cat to find out more about her work…
Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, my name is Catriona MacKenzie and I’m the designer/maker behind CatMacKGlass.
How would you describe what you do?
I am a glassblower and jeweller who creates contemporary modern pieces of work. I have been making for other glassmakers most of my professional life, so now is the time for me to make what is important to me, and I hope I can make a success out of that.
Have you always been creative?
Yes! I decided when I was five that I wanted to go to Art School. My first love was drawing – I’d spend hours with my pencils.
What was your experience of art/craft education at school?
I found school hard, and art was my refuge. I had a brilliant art teacher who really encouraged me to go for my degree at Edinburgh College of Art.
When did you start working with glass?
It was by accident really. I went to Edinburgh in the hope of becoming a jeweller. I still remember the first time I worked with hot glass. It’s kind of addictive!
I think a lot of makers think it will be easy. It’s not. There is a lot of competition out there, so they need to know that first. Do your market research, and then be prepared to work hard.
Can you describe your creative process?
I spend a lot of time designing. I really like patterns and texture, so I like to look at all sorts of things in nature or manmade. I also love colour, so I like using the glass in a bright and bold manner.
Where do you work?
I work from home and rent a studio. I create my silverware in my box room and I rent space in a glassblowing studio. Glassblowing equipment is VERY expensive, so it’s cost effective for me to rent when I need to.
Are there any tools that you couldn’t live without?
Oh yes! Glass is very tool-based. Because the glass is well over 1,000˚C, we have to use different tools to manipulate the molten glass. My favourite tool is my parrot-nosed shears, because they cut the molten glass well, and they fit my tiny hands.
Are there any artists or designers you particularly admire?
I really admire makers who are original, have a strong sense of design and are highly skilled craftspeople. I love all materials so lots of different makers impress me. I love Lino Tagliapetra’s blown and carved glasswork, and I really like Keith Varney’s ceramics. Again these makers are very skilled.
My inspiration tends to come from the world around me and experiences I have had. I like anything from the natural world (the gills of a mushroom) or the man-made (graffiti).
Who or what else inspires you?
I tend not to be inspired by people but rather applications of shape or pattern. A maker’s design is very special to them, and it’s how they express who they are. My inspiration tends to come from the world around me and experiences I have had. Because I love colour, shape and pattern I can be inspired by various processes of decoration. I like anything from the natural world (the gills of a mushroom) or the man-made (graffiti). In fact I’ve made pieces of work inspired by both of these.
How would you spend your perfect day?
My perfect day would be by the sea. I’m a coastal girl at heart and I really do love the smell of the ocean. And I wouldn’t mind some fish and chips, and a 99 to go with that ;)
You recently took part in The Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey, which is a huge event in the craft calendar. Can you tell us more about that?
It was my first time at The Contemporary Craft Festival, and I really enjoyed it. I’m currently going through the Crafts Council’s Hothouse mentoring scheme for emerging makers, so my stand was with my fellow peers in Hothouse. The standard of work was phenomenal. This was really encouraging to see and I was really impressed by the work represented.
Were there any other stalls or makers who really stood out to you?
There are lots of makers who stood out for me – my fellow Hothousiers for one! I can’t name them all, so have a look at this link for some names. Two of the other makers I liked were Katy Luxton, who creates 3D printed and silver jewellery, and Dan Chapple’s gorgeous Raku ceramic work.
What’s the best thing about being creative for a living?
Being able to create. Seems obvious I know, but it feels like what my hands were meant for. I can honestly say it’s not easy being a professional craftmaker, and my seven years at university hadn’t really prepared me for just how hard it is. I just love making and creating things, and find experimenting with a material very rewarding. There are good aspects and bad aspects to this profession. I work incredibly hard, and when things go right and the work looks good, it’s the best feeling in the world!
What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
To think really hard about it first. Is it a business, or is it a hobby you really enjoy doing? I think a lot of makers think it will be easy. It’s not. There is a lot of competition out there, so they need to know that first. Do your market research, and then be prepared to work hard. Who are you aiming your work at, and what do you want to get out of it? If the designs are strong, the product fits into a niche in the market, and they have the dedication, then I say “go for it!”. Make sure your prices are right too. A lot of makers don’t pay themselves enough, so get these things right and all the very best!
What does craft mean to you?
Craft means skill to me. Craft means dedication to a material: learning how it works and how far you can push it. Craft means strength of concept and consideration, not just about making something, It’s about making something very well, which can be cherished and appreciated.
To celebrate being our featured maker Cat is offering 20% off all the work in her Folksy shop until 15 July with code CATMACK20. Look out for Cat’s new collection coming to her shop soon too.